In order to foil an extortion plot, an FBI agent undergoes a facial transplant surgery and assumes the identity and physical appearance of a terrorist, but the plan turns from bad to worse when the same terrorist impersonates the FBI agent.
Stanley Goodspeed, who lives in Washington D.C., is a biochemist who works for the FBI. Soon after his fiancée Carla Pestalozzi announces that she is pregnant, Stanley gets a call from FBI director James Womack. Womack tells Stanley that San Francisco's Alcatraz Island has been taken hostage, along with 81 tourists, by marine General Francis Xavier Hummel who, for years, has been protesting the government's refusal to pay benefits to families of war veterans who died during covert military operations. The death of his wife Barbara Hummel on March 9, 1995 drove General Hummel over the edge, and now he's holding hostages in order to get his point across. Stanley is needed because General Hummel has stolen some VX gas warheads and has announced that he will launch them onto San Francisco unless his demands are met. Stanley knows how to disarm the bombs, but Stanley needs someone who knows Alcatraz well enough to get him inside. That man is former British intelligence agent John Patrick ... Written by
"The Rock" is an action movie, alright, but it's an action move about its characters, and that's what saves it. It has a strong cast and strong characters and therefore the plot, about a militia group taking Alcatraz hostage and threatening to fire bombs into San Francisco if they don't get 100 million dollars, isn't what comes off the best.
There are four central characters in this film. Hummel is the man in charge of this hostage takeover. He is a highly-ranked general who is doing this to teach the government a lesson: they've been neglecting forgotten soldiers who died in the Gulf and Nam, and instead of their families being told the truth, they've simply been marked as "Missing in Action." He is played by Ed Harris, who does such a good man torn between duty, conscience, and vengeance, he is the best film villain since Jack Nicholson in "The Shining."
Goodspeed is a computer nerd working for the C.I.A. He's never been in combat situations, but because of his advanced knowledge of chemical bombs, they've sent him into Alcatraz with a group of Navy SEALS, and he has no idea how to react in war-like situations. Played by Nicolas Cage, his performance is believable and powerful.
Anderson is the man in control of the Navy SEALS on the mission to Alcatraz. Tough as nails, bound by duty, he freely admits he agrees with Hummel's reasoning, but he says those are risks that are part of the job, and Hummel is wrong in his action because he took an oath to serve his country no matter what. He is played by Michael Biehn, who delivers a top-notch performance, and one similar to his role in "Terminator."
But the most powerful character in the film is Mason, the only man who has ever escaped from Alcatraz. Tough, cunning, and full of one-liners, he has been caged up in a maximum security prison for years. It's hard to say whether the viewer can trust him or not, and he has many secrets and much knowledge of the facility...which is why he was chosen to go with the SEALS. He is played by Sean Connery, who's performance is perfectly Sean Connery-ish. But who would want it any other way?
This film is great, and it is a great character study for anyone who might be majoring in it or just likes to watch films with good casts. Recommended. ****1/2 out of *****.
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